Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conference Blog (Day 1)

Dear Diary,

I'm at a conference!  I have a really cool roomate from UC Merced.  He is presenting Saturday and we actually both know a guy in his lab!

I also got to talk with some other Master's students from CSULA and told them all about Irvine's condensed matter program!  This was done at a Halloween party with a laser show and music.  The author of the Bad Astronomy blog is going to give a talk tomorrow night.  He wore a hazard suit and DJ'd!

Wow, I didn't plan on getting Halloween candy, but this sure is a treat!  Ok, I have to get to sleep so that tomorrow I can be alert for the talks.  Goodnight!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Far West Regional APS Meeting (Part III)

Dear Diary,

Yikes.  I felt like I did not do my best presentation during the group meeting.  I succeeded in getting nervous throughout the first third of the presentation.  Hopefully, that's the end of being nervous.

The group had really good suggestions.  I need to express in plain language the intent of my talk right at the beginning instead of implying it.  People had trouble knowing what to expect.  If given a scaffold at the beginning, diary, the audience will be able to build the presentation with you during the talk.

And I spent all week on preparing for the conference (as well as other minor duties)!  It's tough work preparing and I want to make sure everything is in order...well, without spending months on it.  I better get moving on everything once I get back, and I need to remember to take some conference notes, report on what I see, and talk to three professors.

Oh no, Lucas!  I told Lucas I couldn't get the derivatives fit this week like he wanted but that didn't happen!  He moved off to a post-doc taking his expertise with him.  Worst of all, now when I have a meeting with Kieron, I don't have my Lucas crutch! Yikes!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Far West APS Meeting (Part II)

Dear Diary,

I found some fellow second year students who sat through a practice run of my talk.  It only cost me some treats (three pitchers and two baskets of curly fries) when we get together this next Wednesday!

Unfortunately, I did not give my best performance (read: "straight garbalage").  I always find it's difficult giving a presentation the first time because you become responsible for what is coming out of your mouth. But that first time is so necessary; it makes you want to never so poorly again!  Also, the faces of my confused comrades is permanently etched in my memory. Once I started talking, their terrified expressions of confusion gave me the best advice that can be given:  just don't do any of that next time!  I should have played it off as a trick... Happy Halloween!

A lot of my introduction was rushed and I believe that undermined the rest of the content.  Further, my video loaded slowly forcing me over my time (never good!).  That technical difficulty is brutal and must be mastered.

I got some very legitimate, serious questions (ex: "What the hell?!") and a few kudos (ex: "I'm sure the drinks will be great!").  In all, I feel it will very positively affect my performance come this Tuesday (when I present for the group) and Friday (when I present to strangers who super don't know me!) if I iron out the kinks.  It's on my shoulders to make sure it gets better, so I'll double my practice and make sure it makes sense as I sound the words out loud!

I should get back to working on it, diary!  I'll tell you how it goes!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Far West APS Meeting

Dear Diary,

We're going to conference!  The American Physical Society (APS) has several sections and we happen to be in the Far West division including Nevada, California, and Hawaii!

Each year, the section holds a regional meeting which is quite student friendly.  Lots of talks are given (no posters!) and lots of informative plenary sessions are given.  This year, there's even a Halloween reception bash the day before!

Myself and Kevin, the undergraduate, are heading up to the conference to give presentations.  I've already written mine and am practicing each night after my office mates go home to avoid disturbing them. I've tried to keep it to one slide per minute (the talks are only 10 minutes long) and I keep reshuffling items based on what makes sense in how I think through the presentation.

I contracted some other first year graduate students (with accumulated pub time afterward!) to critique my talk before giving it to the group on Tuesday.  Hopefully, this all whips my presentation into polished shape before the conference next Friday!

The hardest part will be to plan out what to wear.  Will it be the purple dress shirt or the blue one?  I suppose I could with a red shirt and dinner jacket or keep it business cazh--or ultra cazh.

I should also get a to plan my costume...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Curriculum Vitae

Coup Blog, Day 2:

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke wanted to check our CVs.  He had us all put them up the projector so we could see how to improve them.

The other group members had colors, great formatting, and well chosen items.  They all said mine was crazy vintage--like it was from 50 years ago!

A few tips that we gleaned from looking at everyone's CV:

1)  Avoid information from high school
2)  Put wordy statements of research into another document
3)  Include group duties.  Like you, diary!
4)  Only include publications that are fully published or submitted
5)  Include links as a pdf and colors and pretty fonts
6)  List the people you supervised if they are below you in level
7)  List dollar amounts on prizes (at least for American opportunities)
8)  Make it so people want to hire you
9)  Little knobs can be useful (ex: undergraduate research) mentioning an activity might pique the reader's interest

Professor Burke said he needs these in case he's ambushed and needs to turn in someone for the reward!  I'll have to keep mine up to date and make it nice looking so I can get the benefit!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's a Coup (d'etat)!

Coup Diary, Day 1:


Today the militant wing of the group deposed Raphael and installed me as the new group manager.  I'm now in charge of the internet services, meeting notes, internal media, and everything else in this little democracy.  Only Justin (computer manager) and Aurora (spymaster) have any duties at the moment--though just about everything will change in a few weeks.

All I can promise my fellow group members is that everyone will be treated fairly.  Together we can expunge the devices of unproductivity and ensure that everyone is working to enhance the group's function.  To give anything less would be to submit to our common enemy, and if we obey those decrees given to us, then we will be victorious. To have more, we must produce more.  To produce more, we must know more.

...The strange thing is that when Raphael handed over the cookie purchasing duties and presentation markers/cables, he had a big grin on his face.  It was almost like he wanted to get rid of his job.  I need to go lie down before this power trip goes to my head...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jersey Shorse

Dear Diary,

Professor Burke treated us to dinner at his house last night.  He graciously provided us with a full meal and lavish deserts.  I'm still full and, thankfully, was not one of the main courses.  I forgot to take a picture of everyone, though, so I might be toast at tomorrow's group meeting.

Oh yeah, we even played a game where you substitute horse for a word in a television show!

A new postdoc has joined us.  Paul is coming to work on semi-classical projects with us.  He and his family seem really nice!  As soon as I figure out what his email is, I'll add him to Burke Blog Plus so he can get all the latest inside Burke knowledge.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Never Sleep In

Dear Diary,

For the first time in a while, I was going to sleep in this morning.  Big mistake!  I thought it might be nice to ease back into things.  However, the residence hall where I live decided that 8:15 am would be an ideal time for a fire drill (read: 'arson alarm' since they planned it).

But I have my weekly meeting with Professor Burke at 9 am.  What's a graduate student to do?! (Hint: advisor > arson alarm)

It seems like something out of the ordinary happens to me approximately every five days (plus or minus four) around here.  So, I was prepared.  I put in some of my enormous purple ear plugs and set off on the five minute walk to work.  A conversation with one of the staff herding people to a registration table went something like this:

"Head to the registration!" he said waving.
"Good morning!" I said.
Pointing, he says, "go over there!"
"Yes, it's a beautiful day!"
He looks exasperated and mutters something. I point to my ear plugs, put on my confused expressions, and then wander into work.  He'll never know what was going through my head!

In truth, the fire alarms periodically go off in my complex anyway--be it from an undergraduate overcooking something, an undergraduate smoking, an undergraduate pulling the fire alarm, an undergraduate being an undergraduate, a graduate student getting extra sleep/relaxing/getting work done, etc.  So, I'm truly desensitized to it by now.  Some nights I wonder if I can get to sleep if someone doesn't set off their alarm.  It's like counting sheep at this point.

It's a good thing I didn't go swimming this morning or else I wouldn't have been able to get back into my room and change.  I'm going to go and brush my teeth in the bathroom and purchase a croissant for breakfast.  C'est la vie!

Monday, October 7, 2013

More 1984

Dear Diary,

I'm back!  I have to get going on all my chores, research, and ABC of DFT duties.  Professor Burke asked me to set up a dropbox system on the university's EEE online websharing something something.

To do this, I logged onto EEE, saw that the boss had added me as an administrator and got to work.  To make a drop box, you just need to

1)  click on the course you're administrating under 'MyEEE'
2)  click on 'Dropbox'
3)  since we wanted one dropbox for each assignment, I clicked 'create a new dropbox' and followed the instructions

I even made three groups for each subsection:  Weenie DFT (the first few chapters of the ABCs), Tweenie DFT (the next few chapters of DFT...and Twilight fanfiction?!), and Advanced DFT (hard-core, 1999 mode physics).  I'm in the first two because I wanted to review the first few chapters from this last spring.  Now that I've got my feet wet, it might be good to take a fresh look at everything.  Li is joining me too, and Justin is teaching.

After adding everyone into groups, I apportioned the dropboxes and set a Wednesday (Tweenie)/Thursday (Weenie, Advanced) at 7am deadline. Students can upload their assignments by logging onto EEE after clicking on 'Dropbox.'  It should show right up with an intimidating message about the due date!

For now, I'll let students upload late homeworks but they'll be marked late.  They thought of everything--even shame!  The instructors (Justin, Raphael, and Professor Burke) can modify that if they want...well, except for me.  I couldn't simultaneously be an administrator and add myself as a student, so apparently mixing those roles together makes me a tyrannical hypocrite.  It appears our computer software is forcing me to make a power grab!